TANGENTIALLY YOURS CONGRATS, GRAHAM RAHAL Graham Rahal, driving the No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps Honda-powered Dallara to victory Sunday in St. Petersburg, became the youngest winner in IndyCar Series' history. Other than Rahal's car being...
CONGRATS, GRAHAM RAHAL
Graham Rahal, driving the No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps Honda-powered Dallara to victory Sunday in St. Petersburg, became the youngest winner in IndyCar Series' history.
Other than Rahal's car being from a racing operation whose celebrity head once regularly cursed the day on which the IRL was born, about the only other unusual aspect about Rahal's win is that he led two-time St. Pete winner and a usually fire-breathing Helio Castroneves across the finish line.
Well, there actually being a few more unusual aspects and having now completed the obligatory journalistic 'thing' by recounting what hundreds, if not thousands of other news sources already conveyed, it's "Tangent Time."
This writer got to know Graham Rahal in much the same way he met Helio Castroneves at the Rolex 24 at Daytona: at first, this writer had no idea to whom he was speaking (firesuits being extremely helpful when on, and not worth didley when off in helping identify the person with whom they are usually associated).
Sliding into Mike Shank Racing's hauler looking to chat with Mark Patterson, Oswaldo Negri, John Pew or Ian James, this writer found Rahal seated next to Patterson. (Come to think of it: one year previous Castroneves stood alongside Negri in the same hauler - what a magical place it must be.)
As the conversation unfolded, Rahal unassumingly chimed in every now and again with an intelligently parsed wry comment while displaying an almost never-ending smile on his face.
It was well into the conversation when the Geritol (ask an elder who also is familiar with what was known as an "Arthur Godfrey") finally kicked-in and 'the bolt' hit Williams: "This witty young man must be Graham Rahal," Williams said to hisownself.
"Why, he looks nothing like his old man. He's tall, almost rail thin, doesn't sport a near-permanent suntan, handsome and has thick, dark hair on his noggin - hmmm, must've gotten the 'hair gene' from his mother, Debi."
As part of the four-man Rolex 24 team responsible for driving Mike Shank Racing's No. 60 Westfield Insurance Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype, Graham Rahal drove a most excellent race - even leading it - before the team dropped from the race's top-dog pack to a sixth-place finish, some 53-miles behind race-winners Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and their No. 01 Telmex/Target Lexus-Riley out of the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix (y Jose) Sabates stables.
Graham Rahal - as this is written already pictured with Castroneves and Tony Kanaan on the IRL Web site's banner - now becomes one of the series' "front men" and, paired with AGR's Marco Andretti (who Sunday finished at the rear of the St. Pete field), completes what at least a few others thought U.S.-based open wheel racing has long needed: a couple of U.S.-born, on-track antagonists.
With Graham Rahal's victory getting a lot of attention, likely resulting in (or having had) a visit to The Late Show with David Letterman, at least some work remains for the IRL when one considers NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell made a multiple-stop trip on the New York City talk show circuit Monday morning after he survived a fairly nasty set of barrel rolls Friday at Texas Motor Speedway (and we all only go to races to see who wins, right?).
Graham Rahal has the charisma and smarts to help IRL do it.
CONGRATS TO IRL, TOO
Did anyone else notice that 13 IndyCar Series racers finished on the same lap as winner Graham Rahal? Furthermore, 17 (or 18, depending on source) of the field's 25 starters were running (no, none were merely idling in pit lane) at race end.
Why, the "17" was just one car shy of the total count fielded for more races (um, years?) than series officials probably would care to remember or, before long, will care to recount.
Hopefully, now long gone are the times you could see longtime open-wheel observers absolutely cringe when only a half-dozen or fewer cars were left competing while deep into a race.
Just wait: gray-haired folk situated in rocking chairs will someday fondly recall the "good ol' days" from which the worst of details often are often overlooked or all but forgotten - including at times wondering where an 18th car might be found.
It's a place every series has been in one way, one time or another. It's from whence one emerges that really counts.
AN ENGINE BY ANOTHER NAME
Upon the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series' public ceasefire pronouncement, one of the first ancillary questions posited was, "What of Cosworth?"
Bought in late-2004 by Champ Car principals Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven from Ford (itself having actually owned the now 50-year-old company for only about six years), "Cosworth Racing" soon became, simply, "Cosworth" and supplied race engines to Champ Car (as well as parts for other, mostly engine-related commercial demands).
With the "unification" what, then, was to become of the venerable, if not legendary engine-maker (which stands second only to Ferrari in total F1 victories) now that Champ Car was fixing to exit stage-left?
Present-day, beneath-the-surface rumblings by some within the racing industry have said Honda before long will announce a voluntary IRL stage-right exit - the company additionally but privately having delivered that message prior to the open-wheel ceasefire.
Any guesses as to what fills the emptying engine bays?
We're a strange lot, us humans.
The Twelve-Year War (aka: The Battle of Open-Wheel) having been all but completely settled by its principal combatants, there are those who still fight on.
A look at a few Champ Car-orientated Web blogs and forums show an ongoing enmity in some quarters that remains as strong as ever.
It kinda of reminds one of how an occasional, fiercely loyal WWII Japanese soldier would emerge from a dense South Pacific island jungle, finally "surrendering" 30-years or more after the war officially ended.
Then again, as a lineal descendant of a Floridian who 147-years-ago took up arms against a "dastardly" Union, I commiserate.
Setting the stage: Given that ethanol producers, ALMS, Chevrolet and the IRL guys already are quite angry with this writer (who coincidentally is listening to the Allman Brothers' rendition of "Stormy Monday" as this is written) for his recent ethanol-critical commentary series, he may as well go ahead and add insult to injury.
Associated with the St. Petersburg race weekend, the "Ethanol Promotion and Information Council" (EPIC), released a defensive-front public relations campaign that, in part, cited LECG, LLC economist John Urbanchuk who, surprisingly, didn't attack ethanol production.
The following two paragraphs are among other Urbanchuk comments but are excerpted verbatim within context, in order and entirely without any addition, subtraction, multiplication or division from EPIC's release:
"Urbanchuk also addressed land use criticism and the recent cover story in a major news magazine blaming ethanol production in the United States for the destruction of rain forests in Brazil.
"'Keep in mind that Brazil produces ethanol for its own market, roughly 30-35 percent of their fuel contains ethanol, and they produce it for export,' he said. 'Ethanol and biofuels are in fact a global phenomenon.'" (April 4, 2008, "Spotlight on Green Racing in St. Pete," Ethanol Promotion and Information Council)
So, then, it's okay if one destroys rainforest, wherever it may be, just so long as only some of the resultant possible ethanol production is being exported to the U.S?
DC Williams, Exclusively for Motorsport.com.